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Small Business - Big Engagement

Social media has emerged as an ideal platform for sharing a corporate responsibility story with stakeholders. It’s authentic. It’s continuous. It’s targeted. It’s interactive. But companies big and small have yet to fully embrace social tools and integrate them into their CSR communications mix.

Opportunities for companies to inform, engage and activate stakeholders around their CSR initiatives and issue areas continue to increase as understanding and usage of social channels becomes more sophisticated. At the large company level, resources and staff time can be funneled into figuring out the best way proceed.
But what about small businesses?

We know that CSR can look a lot different in small businesses. We also know that small businesses have different adoption rates of social media. What we don’t know, and what we set out to explore in this study, is how small businesses are using social media to tell the stories of their involvement in the community. What tools are working? What processes enable the biggest return on investment? How are they able to communicate about what they’re doing in the community in a way that resonates with stakeholders? And is social media an important part of this?

To find out some answers to these questions, we conducted in-depth interviews with individuals at 12 small to medium-sized businesses in the Greater Washington, D.C. region in late 2011. Combined with audits of their websites and social media channels, as well as available data and statistics from previously available studies, we were able to identify trends in how small businesses are thinking about social media, CSR and the intersection of the two. Using some of the examples we saw among the small businesses interviewed, we also were able to develop some best practices that will guide other small businesses in incorporating social media into their CSR storytelling mixes.
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